October 2, 2015

Election story could be political thriller movie

Below is a preview of the Sept. 25, 2015 edition of Kentucky Roll Call. To read the actual story and names, go to the link in the next column — bottom right. 

‘The Story’ of the 2015 Republican primary for governor was a political thriller that would make a compelling movie.

An ex-girlfriend accuses a major candidate for governor of domestic violence, of abusing her physically and emotionally, claiming in a letter to the state’s largest newspaper, “Did [he] hit me? Yes,” and that he drove her to Louisville for an abortion. The accused denies it all.

Rumors of the alleged abuses had spread on the campaign trail for more than a year, but were never seen in print until 21 days before the election, when e-mails, preciously exchanged between the husband of a rival candidate’s running mate and a blogger, were leaked to the state’s second largest newspaper. The leak came from an unlikely source not identified at the time, and remained a mystery until nearly four months after the election, in a story Kentucky Roll Call broke.

Oddly, the leak came from the camp of the candidate who was accused of domestic abuse, raising the question, “Why would he fan a negative?” But there was logic in the decision — potential benefits in multiple ways, including: (a) it vented the issue by obeying the political adage that you put a negative out front and chase it, as compared to it chasing you; (b) it would discredit a major rival; and (c) plant doubt in the voters’ minds about the veracity of the abuses, that maybe the political rival connected to the e-mails created the abuses as a rumor.

The plot thickens: someone hired a pricey private eye in New York City to investigate (intimidate) the ex-girlfriend, who now lives in the Big Apple. The message to her being, keep your mouth shut or your parents will find out about the abortion.  

Did a Democrat outfox the Republicans by orchestrating the leak in order to clear the path for the Republican nominee the Democrats’ preferred as their opponent in the general election? There appeared to be reasons to believe so.

The e-mails were stolen by dark means. But by whom, and how did they end up, allegedly, in the hands of a lobbyist who sneaked them to the reporter in an elaborate and calculated scheme.

The reporter unwittingly fell for the scheme and wrote a story that would knock the e-mail-connected rival out of the race. And, as planned, once the reporter’s story came out, the accused would call a press conference and deny everything, and he had plenty of time to prepare answers to the questions. A nice scheme, or so it seemed!

Once the ex-girlfriend read the blanket denials, which made her out to be a liar, she decided to tell her side of story to the state’s largest newspaper. Her decision was the tipping point of the accused’s campaign.  Throughout the remaining 16 days of the election, the big-city paper ran story after story, turning the ill-gotten e-mails and alleged abuses into ‘The Story’ of the 2015 gubernatorial primary, dooming the chance of her ex-boyfriend to be governor.  He lost by 83 votes.